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Pile #6 “Will Catholics Be “Left Behind”” by Carl Olson

1 Jan

Will Catholics be “left behind”: a Catholic critique of the rapture and today’s prophecy preachers Carl E. Olson. San Francisco : Ignatius Press. 2003.  395 p. Includes bibliographic references. [on title page “Modern Apologetics Library”]

The original review can be found here: “Will Catholics Be Left Behind?” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2T3SRJBJZSPNX/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

The End-as-Beginning

The end of November each year marks a turning point in the life of the Church and the world as a whole: as we come to the end-as-beginning of another year, Christians look forward to the yearly celebration of the Coming of the Lord as the Babe of Bethlehem and prepare ourselves through the Season of Advent (the New Year begins on 1 Advent for Christians), while also looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ in Glory and the World-To-Come. Traditionally also, this is a time for the preaching of the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell as it relates to the individual. And a rich source of material for such preaching is to be found in the final book of the Christian Bible, The Revelation to John.

This is especially true of Evangelical preaching and popular fiction about the end times ( in particular the recent “Left Behind” series co-written by Tim LaHaye), which is more likely to tie events in Revelation to contemporary world events.  A popular movement within Evangelical Christian circles which typifies this style of preaching is Dispensationalism with its watchword question “Will you be left behind when Christ comes to rapture His Church?” This is a question not usually addressed, or even asked by Catholic Christians, who  are more likely to ask,

“Why the Rapture?”

Answers are not always to easy to come by though, at least from a Catholic perspective, most of the material comes from the plethora of  seminaries, authors, blogs, church websites, publishers and nearly all of that is slanted toward the acceptance of Rapture Theology. This is not to say that no references exist to help the  concerned Catholic (or indeed other, concerned non-Catholic Christian) who wants to know a little more about this Rapture and Bible Prophecy movement, especially when they want a second, or third opinion about it. In this regards, Carl Olson’s Will Catholics be “left behind? A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today’s Prophecy Preachers fills a niche, and offers an answer, as well as an answer to the answer to the question above.

Olson, an Evangelical  convert to Roman Catholicism, is a former editor of the Catholic periodical Envoy and also free-lances for various other Catholic publications.  The book was written, in his own words because “the Rapture, and belief in the Rapture, is the heart of a unique and complex view of the Bible, the world, the Kingdom and Israel, and the end of Time” (p13) that is at odds with Catholic (and historical mainline Protestant) theology, and  is not to be taken as an isolated doctrine. That is why it is important to understand, and to critique, the rapture.

The book can be divided into two sections: part one  (chapters one through six) gives an introduction and history of the rapture and it’s surrounding theology; while part two (chapters 7-10) provides a critique of the same from Catholic principles. An introduction, glossary of names and of terms, notes, and a lengthy bibliography of primary sources pointing to further information on the topics covered in the book frame the work as a whole.

So, What’s In a Rapture…

In the introduction, Olson shares his own faith journey and interaction with Rapture theology, as well as his motives for writing “Will Catholics Be Left Behind”.  Chapter one brings us into the world of the Rapture and modern Bible prophecy movement, as well as summarizing the confusion that Catholics often display when presented with rapture teachings, Chapter two provides an overview of the recent popularity of “Left Behind” and other media treatments and begins to analyze the theology behind it, Then in chapters 3  we are introduced to the literalist method of scriptural interpretation as applied to both the Book of Revelation and the Prophets and the Bible as a whole, as well as a brief history of interpretation of the Book of Revelation through the centuries.

Chapters 4-6 bring the focus to the movements and personalities of this theology through the  twin lenses of Dispensationalist-Milllenarianism. Chapter 5 and 6 especially give a history of key movements -offering a brief overview of end-times teachings from the Church Fathers on up to the late twentieth century with special attention to British and American writers- and personalities -such as William Miller, John Nelson Darby, Cyrus Scofield (of the Scofield Reference Bible) Hal Lindsey, and Tim LaHaye (of the Left Behind series of apocalyptic novels)-, as well as  clarification of many terms used in teaching and commentaries -explaining the differences between pre-, post, and mid-tribulation; and pre-, post- and amillennialism.

With chapter 7, Olson begins the critique from Catholic principles, concentrating on what Olson says are the three main areas of disagreement between Dispenseationalists and other forms of Christianity: the relationship of Old Testament Israel and the Church (chapter 7), the interpretation of the Scripture (a literal-reading only approach versus a more nuanced understanding) and “Bible Prophecy” with its constant mandate  to match current world events with the events of “prophecy” as it relates to the End Times and its influence upon the believers who accept such views (chapter 8); and the Rapture itself -the notion of believers being caught up and removed from the world scene before the Second Coming (chapter 9).  He ends the book with a chapter giving the Catholic view of the end times (chapter 10).

In their own words

Although Olson himself as he admits, was raised in a Fundamentalist home in expectation of the Rapture, he draws very little upon personal experience in his critique, focusing instead on dispensationalists’ own writings as primary source material, on passages of disputed scripture, as well as documents from Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and prominent theologians.

Obviously, Olson writes from the perspective of a committed Roman Catholic, but much of his criticism would be agreeable to Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and the other mainline Protestant churches.  His book is helpful in understanding the popularity of End Times fervor among our Evangelical and Fundamentalist brethren: sympathetic yet not afraid to point out fundamental errors in method and effect. At the same time, his reliance on written sources only without engaging in dialogue can come off as standoffish, which has never been his intention.

The book can appear to be more of a negative critique, than a real engagement with Rapture theology, especially when the final chapter is the sole location where the positive understanding of the End Times, from a Catholic perspective is put forward yet it is helpful to keep in mind that Olson is not writing a scholarly text, but a popular introduction for Catholics. One [Amazon] reviewer has criticized Olson for not including a discussion of Catholic ‘private revelation’ and Catholic ‘end times prophecies’ when giving the Catholic teaching of the End Times (1), but this shows a misunderstanding of the role of private revelation: private revelation is not to be construed as adding anything to doctrine -any such teaching does not belong to the Deposit of the Faith. but is only useful for confirming or illustrating teachings of the faith, and must not contain anything contrary to faith or good morals.(2)

references

  1. http://www.amazon.com/Catholics-Behind-Modern-Apologetics-Library/product-reviews/0898709504/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar  “Catholic “Double-Talk” at it’s Finest”, accessed on 07/08/2012
  2. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13005a.htm  “Private Revelation”, accessed on 07/08/2012

My next review will be Africa and the Bible, by Edwin Yamaguchi, so until then my friends, Keep Reading!

Pile #3 This Is My Beloved Son by Andreas Andreopoulos

12 Nov

This is my beloved Son: the transfiguration of Christ / Andreas Andreopoulos; forward by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia. Brewster, MA:  Paraclete Press. 2012. xiv, 142p. Includes bibliographic references.

My original Amazon review can be found here: “This Is My Beloved Son” : http://www.amazon.com/review/RQD9GCNQSQT80/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

The Lesser Known Feast

Throughout the year, Christians the world over celebrate events in the Life of Christ and the Saints, using the Ordo Kalendar, and the Martyrology. Of these events, one of the most singular is called the Transfiguration, or Metamorphosis -an event which tells of Jesus taking three of his disciples up to a mountain to pray, For Western Christians, the Transfiguration of Christ is one of the less focused on events in the life of  Jesus as applied to the life of the believer; and, along with the Trinity, one of the more difficult to preach on. Even though the Transfiguration receives attention twice in the year -readings for the Transfiguration occur before Lent during the Season of Epiphany (or the ‘Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’), and again on August 6th -the traditional date of the Feast itself, it can be argued that the Transfiguration has the least impact of all the major events of Christ’s life and work in the Western Christian’s walk with God.  For this reason among others there are not many contemporary Western works of theology (in English) that independently cover the Transfiguration.

Transfiguration and Theosis

This is not the case in the East, which derives an entire fundamental spirituality of light and glory from a study of the Transfiguration.  The Eastern Church in it’s unique way, makes the Transfiguration one of the central events upon which the Christian life ought to be oriented.  There is much in patristic literature (including Sayings and Lives of the Desert Fathers) that make this point, and they relate the Transfiguration to a cornerstone doctrine known as Theosis, or the divination of Man -summed up in the following expression of Saint Athanasius: “God became man, that man might become God”.  A shallow reading of such a statement can of course lead to confusion, and accusations of polytheism (especially from Muslims and certain brands of Protestantism), and which may be one reason why it is only recently, historically speaking, that much attention has been paid, bot to the event, and to the doctrine of Theosis in the West arising out of a renewed discovery and dialogue with our Eastern Christian brethren. Happily though, Dr. Andreas Andreopoulos -a Greek born Reader in Orthodox Studies at the University of Winchester, UK-  has written extensively on the Transfiguration, and his most recent book This Is My Beloved Son: The Transfiguration of Christ serves as a gentle introduction for Western Christians and it is to this book that I will now turn.

Response, not Explanation

Andreopoulo’s present text is not quite scholarship, and not quite personal exploration, but more akin to a meditation and spiritual interpretation.  In a way it is the completion of his more scholarly work “Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography” (available from the same  publisher, and currently on my Amazon.com wish list).

In This Is My Beloved Son, he seeks not so much to explain the Transfiguration event itself (which he covers in great detail in the aforementioned “Metamorphosis”),  as to explore its continuing influence in the life of the Church and individual believer, arguing that the Transfiguration does double duty as a revelation of the mystery of Christ and of our destiny as human beings.  His own explanation for the book, quoted from the introduction: tells us: “This book may be described as my response to the mystery of the Transfiguration” (xiv).

Included within the book are a foreword by Kallistos Ware (another profound interpreter of Orthodoxy to the West), a brief introduction by the author, six chapters, and a set of bibliographic notes.  His presentation is complemented  by an informal writing style and reading pace graces the pages, and he treats  the reader not as a student to be lectured at, nor as a congregant to be preached to, but as a fellow traveler in the Way of Christ, who can benefit from the travel notes of another -an analogy he uses in the Introduction.

Transfiguration: Themes

He opens the book with a chapter that introduces major biblical themes that relate to the Transfiguration, such as: as light, glory, and life in Christ; and uses the rest of the book to build upon these and other images in interpreting and responding to the idea of Transfiguration.   And yet, each chapter is not a totally separate essay; he constantly alludes forwards and backwards to the various themes that make up the Transfiguration, relating them to the life of the Church and of the believer, almost as if he were composing a concerto, and weaving themes and motifs together from different parts of the whole. Throughout the text he places the Transfiguration as a focal point: looking forward to the Passion and Resurrection as well as  looking back to Christ’s Baptism. Just as importantly, he sees in the Transfiguration a revelation of the Trinity, the fullest expression of the Godhead.

Transfiguration and Faith: From the Beginning

Chapter two, then explores the close connection between Baptism (not just believer’s Baptism but the
Baptism of Christ) and Transfiguration -a revelation of the new life in Christ that faith in Him offers us, as well as a revelation of the Trinity. Chapter three brings us the imagery of the Mountain of faith  (whether that be Ararat, Moriah, Horeb, Sinai, Sion, Carmel, or Thabor)  representing a spiritual journey  of ascent and purification that leads us into deeper communion with God.  The Mountain provides the necessary separation that leads to revelation and back to reintegration into the community. The mountain as a site of ancient cultus (worship) tells us that such desire is widespread, and .

Transfiguration: Miracle and Revelation

Chapter 4 discusses the Transfiguration as Miracle, understood as a foretaste or insight into the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven (p81). In this sense, the Transfiguration is to be seen as a Miracle of Revelation -the miracle of the most complete revelation of the Trinity, comparable to the miracle of Creation itself, and as a prelude to the great miracle of the Resurrection.

Chapter 5 introduces two concepts unique to the East, and a major part of Eastern Christian mystical and theological symbolism: the Uncreated Light of God, and the distinction between His Essence (which is unknowable and where the West goes wrong from the Eastern standpoint) and His Energies (those activities of God  as actualized in the world which can be known). The Transfiguration is here viewed as a manifestation of the Uncreated Light of God (the epitome of  Eastern mystical experience akin to the Spiritual Mansions of St. Teresa of Avila).   The notion of the “Uncreated Light” of God perhaps needs some further elucidation for the Western Christian.  The Uncreated Light, identified with the light that enveloped Christ on Mt. Thabor,  is perhaps the most frequent mystical experience admitted to by Orthodox saints.  Isaiah in his vision, Moses and Elijah as they watched the Back of the Lord as He passed them by, St. Stephen’s vision at his death and the light that struck Paul blind on the road to Damascus, and of course the whiteness of Christ’s garments (and of many an angelic vision in Old and New Testament alike) are all counted as appearances of this Uncreated Light, understood to be the presence, working of God in this world -a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of God.  and uses the Gospel of John -the only Gospel to not record a Transfiguration event, but in Andreopoulos’s reading is properly understood in terms of Transfiguration.

The other central idea of chapter 5 is to understand the Transfiguration as looking forward to, and as a precursor of,  the Eucharist -the life-giving Mystic Supper- (both the Transfiguration and the Divine  Liturgy are here seen as a stepping into the Kingdom of God).

Transfiguration: Resurrection Life

The final chapter, Chapter 6, reflects on the Transfiguration as seen from the Resurrection life of Christ -he writes of seeing the Transfiguration in light of the Resurrection, as a foretaste of what our glorified resurrected bodies will be.   It brings all the themes together again, showing the unity of doctrine.

Significance of the Book

This book was acquired for me by my mother on a trip out west to see the Grand Canyon (I think she bought it at an Episcopal parish she visited) and was an eye-opener for me in many ways. The connection to both the Baptism and the Resurrection, as well as was an interpretation I had not previously come across.  It shows us the Transfigured Life in Christ as begun in Baptism, nurtured through the Eucharist, and oriented toward communion with God, through the Resurrection of Christ. It is important to accept that Andreopoulo’s book represents an Eastern understanding of the Transfiguration, and that this involves the real distinction between the unknowable Essence and knowable Energies of God, as opposed to the virtual distinction of Thomistic scholasticism, the formal distinction of Scotism.

Until next time then,  Read on my friends, and stay thirsty

 

edited on 12 December for consistency sake

Pile #2 The Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David Stearn

24 Oct

The Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New  Testament) / [Translated by] David Stern. Clarksville, MD:  Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. 1998.  lv, 1630 p. ,  ill. (maps). Includes  Bibliographic References and Index. [on title verso: “Published by Messianic Jewish  Publishers”; on cover “Translation by David H Stearn”]

The Christian faith is blessed to have its Sacred Scripture (Old and/or New Testaments) originally composed in Hebrew, (Aramaic,) and Koine Greek, translated into more than 2000 of the approximate 6,500 living  languages on the Earth, and some that are considered “dead”,  making the Christian Bible (and the Jewish Bible encased therein) one the most accessible pieces of literature whether sacred, or profane in the world.  English (in both it’s British and American variants and those nations of the British Commonwealth and influence) is but one of these languages as well as an international lingua franca and alone accounts for more than… well let’s just say there are not a few versions in English.  (This is like saying there are not a few Protestant denominations in the United States, where the number is something like 20,800 and counting.)  Now this is important because….

Translations and their uses

The Bible is also one of the most studied texts in the world. The modern academic and critical study of the Christian Scriptures involves a knowledge of Hebrew,  Aramaic, and Greek -the primary languages of biblical composition- but also encompasses plethora of other Near Eastern languages of antiquity including Syriac, Arabic and Akkadian.

For the majority of (Western) Christians without access or understanding of the original languages, however, exposure to the Bible has been mediated on the one hand by the Latin Vulgate, (and lesser extent the  Greek Septuagint) as translated into various vernacular languages, and on the other hand the message of biblical Judaism through Hebrew (and again, through the Vulgate and Septuagint). In short, we rely on translations.  And, as the history of translation has shown, not all translations are created equal, and some have been treated (rightly or wrongly) as heretical. Moreover, different editions and translations have different uses.

Quite apart from critical texts and the critical apparatus employed by academic scholarship and homiletics such as the membership of the Society of Biblical Literature (http://www.sbl-site.org), formal study of the Bible (Old or New) places more emphasis on original texts than on translations, but interlinear versions are often used.

Informal group use, individual, and pulpit preachers though, rarely go this deep, at most they may utilize word studies of certain words. And the versions used are correspondingly more varied. Examples include Today’s English Version “Good News Bible”) intentionally uses a limited vocabulary for those who read and speak English as a Second Language, The Living Bible, prepared originally for teenage children.  The Authorized Version, familiarly known as the King James Version for all it’s beauty as a text, was conceived of for political as well as theological reasons to be official version in opposition to the Geneva Bible replacing an earlier Bishops’ Bible and the Great Bible which was itself rendered to counter illegal vernaculars such as that produced by Tyndale, Coverdale, or Matthews.

Then, there is the plethora of other versions such as the Dhouay-Rheims Bible which was the first official Catholic English translation in the (or the closest thing to it), the Jerusalem and New Jerusalem Bible, the New American Standard Bible (also Catholic in inspiration), various updates and revisions of the KJV such as the NKJV, the New International Version (NIV),  the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and it’s successor the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) -all of which are used in churches throughout the English speaking world.

And, there is the 1998 offering by Dr. David Stearn, titled The Complete Jewish Bible (herein CJB) which is very nearly a horse of a different color. Why is that, you may ask?

What’s in a name:

The Complete Jewish Bible takes it’s name from the combination of Stearn’s New Testament translation, and his rendering of the Tanahk/Old Testament. which he admits is “something between a translation and a paraphrase” using the 1917 JPS text (now in public domain) as a base for modernization and presented in Hebrew order. Aside from the biblical texts themselves,  the CJB includes a comprehensive introduction that provides the history of composition, intent, style, structure and use of the CJB, along with maps, glossary and pronunciation guide, an index of Tanakh texts cited in the B’rit Hadashah, and maps of the biblical Near East and Yeretz Yisrael, and a title of contents with accompanying lists of Books in the Christian Old Testament Order, and Books of the Bible in Alphabetical Order.  The Introduction (p xii-lv) is itself a wealth of information and insight into the translator’s intention and translations in general, and I have made much use of it for this review.

Every Translation an Interpretation

This is certainly true of Muslim attitudes toward any translation of the Qu’ran out of the Arabic, but in fact it holds true for any text that is translated from one language to another, because there is not a perfect word-for-word correlation. As noted earlier, different translations have different audiences, purposes, and generally fall into one of 4 categories: literal (sometimes called “word-for-word”), paraphrase, thought-for-thought, or a combination of the above. One thing all the versions have in common, though, is that through the Greek, it places the reader at least one remove from the actual thoughts and thinking of Jesus from His own people and believers in His Name through the ages.

Enter David Stearn, and his translation: The Complete Jewish Bible.

Stearn says in his introduction that in writing his Jewish New Testament Commentary, he found that much of what he was writing was “arguing with the translator of the English version I was using” (xiii), so, to cut a long story short, he went back and made his own translation, doing a reconstruction of it to recast it in a Jewish light. This is more than just cosmetic facelift.   Jesus spoke in Aramaic, his first followers spoke Aramaic. Jews of the Diaspora who heard and believed, as well as those God-fearing Gentiles who heard and believed the message, not to mention the out and out Gentiles who heard and believed, spoke, thought, and wrote in Greek, and what has come down to us is a Greek text and not the Aramaic or Hebrew thought that underlies the text.

As translators will admit, there is always a loss of nuance in going between a donor and a receptor language, so there will of necessity being a greater or lesser distortion of the message, and in this case of Jewish concepts. What Dr. Stearn has done in his capacity of a one-man translation committee (in this respect I a reminded of J.B. Phillips’ translations, or Martin Luther German Bible) is to bring a fresh exposure to the Jewish nature of the New Testament documents. Using the  Greek text as a base, he nonetheless gives the Hebrew form for names and concepts (for example Yeshua and Miriam for Jesus and Mary,  Torah and Talmidim, for Law and Disciples) and other expressions (he calls the “Letter to the Hebrews” “Letter to Messianic Jews”), and in other cases he has simply transliterated a Greek word rather than supply a translation (such as “church” and “saints”) when such words as traditionally translated carry too much intellectual and emotional baggage.

One irritation for me personally, was Dr. Stearn’s decision to render the word traditionally read “man” as “human being” no matter where it occurs, unless specifically being addressed to a male.  I like to think that the prophets receiving Revelation would have heard the Almighty addressing them as “Man” or “O Man” and not “Human Being”.
.
Stearn’s concluding thoughts on translations are “The beauty of God’s Word is that it can be translated into various ways that serve these purposes and others, without obscuring the Bible’s own purpose -which is to show people the truth about God, themselves, relationships and the meaning of life, and to call forth the appropriate and necessary responses.” (p xv)

Insightful, and Disconcerting

The CJB is not an academic text, and it doesn’t make use of a critical apparatus, though it may be helpful in individual or group Bible studies as an aide to understanding the richness of the text.   His translation of the B’rit Hadashah was meant to be for both conventional and Messianic Jews, and for interested gentile Christians -to show to both groups that the message of the B’rit Hadash was not foreign to what had come before in the Tanakh.

The CJB was not conceived as a single whole: it incorporates an earlier work “The Jewish New Testament” (published in 1989  and well received by: “Messianic Jews and by Christians open to experiencing the Jewishness of their faith” (p xiii), and the commitment to bring the JNT and a compatibly paraphrased  (non-Christian) Tanakh together under a single cover came later. (xiii)

For potential readers I do offer a caution -as part of Stearn’s intention to  harmonize  into a Jewish context  and style both the Old and New Testaments (Tanakh, and B’rit Hadashah) it introduces and uses a lot of unfamiliar non-English vocabulary: names, places, concepts which can be confusing to the unprepared reader  It also tends to utilize Yiddish expressions, which, for the purist and stickler out there among us -besides being anachronistic is (to quote Captain Hook) “bad form”. One could argue (though I don’t know if Stearn himself does so) that Yiddish was used because Yiddish is a commonly accessible popular language to contemporary Jews, in the same way that Aramaic was a commonly accessible popular language for Jews of antiquity.

Some nonprofessional readers and reviewers (on Amazon.com and other sites with user-generated content reviews) of the CJB condemn it as a deceptive tool of Christian evangelism, and thus an “unJewish” book.  However, in evaluating the claims of a work, it is necessary as far as possible to know who the intended audience of the work is.  It is not enough to read the body of the text without giving consideration to Forewords, Prefaces, and/or Introductions of a work where the author (or translator) often states his own intentions in producing the work.  Those same reader-reviewers who claim that the CJB is an “unJewish” book often make further claim that Messianic Judaism is not sufficiently “Jewish”. Their complaint only holds though,  if we allow them to define the terms.

Final thoughts: The CJB is a fine text to get a feel for the authentic Jewish flavor of the New Testament, best used in conjunction with other versions for the fullest understanding of the Message of Jesus.

Additional information obtained from

1. Wikipedia Article “List of Christian Denominations by Number of Members”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members accessed on October 23, 2012 17:29 (EST)

2. “Versions of the Bible” Catholic Encyclopedia (1917) hosted by New Advent.org Article http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15367a.htm#English accessed on October 23, 2012 17:34  (EST)

3. “Literal Bible Translations on The Baptist Page.net”  http://www.thebaptistpage.net/Bible_Translations/Bible_Literal_Translations_page1.html accessed on October 23, 2012 17:09 (EST)

4. “complete_jewish_bible.pdf (application/pdf Object)” http://www.torahtimes.org/gnmbook/complete_jewish_bible.pdf accessed on October 23, 2012 17:08 (EST) (n.b. pdf document)

Piles and Philes New Series

10 Oct

Welcome to the Philes!  I’d offer you a seat, but as you can see, nearly all the chairs or other suitable sitting (or writing) surface also happen to be the right size and shape for yet one more pile of books or stack of CDs or DVDs and so is otherwise occupied, including a good portion of the floor. Such an arrangement admittedly makes it a little difficult to navigate, but I like the way it feels: A cross between Yomiko Readman’s penthouse suite, the office of nearly every history professor I have had in college (special mention to Dr. David Franklin, Dr. Gordon Carper, even Rev. Whitley) and a cross-section of the second hand book shops along Charing Cross Road in London, England, with the occasional nod to food and clothing.  Erasmus would look fondly around my house.

This is actually my second concerted attempt at a review blog, whence the subtitle “New Series” -the first attempt was an irregular concern of my youth, but now, as I cross the threshold of my fortieth year, the desire to settle down and actually leave a semi-permanent record denoting some achievement(s) has struck and continues to strike at the confines of my procrastination-induced listlessness that I like to call a life.

Now obviously there are far and away too many books out there already, not to mention the ones that continue to come out, yet alone the vast corpus of periodical literature, visual narratives, shows and documentaries to begin to make the beginnings of a dent of a scratch on the surface of what humanity has produced in terms of the literary, cinemagraphic and intellectual record, and only one of me, but that’s ok, for I promise I shall do the best I can. In fact, I tend to mentally take notes on every book, article (and to a lesser extent visual narrative) I read (or watch), rather good, bad, ugly, or indifferent.

About me.  I suppose introductions are always in order, and at the least are the polite thing way to begin a relationship. Hello! My name is Ignio Monto..  Michael. Michael Lilly. I have  a Bachelor of Arts in History from Berry College, a Master of Science in Library Studies from Florida State University and delusions of grandeur about earning yet more graduate and post-graduate degrees; I have been gainfully employed at the registers of a major retail grocery chain these past 15 years (its amazing how many notes you can take on the back of receipt paper); and an insatiable need to read bordering on compulsion -I figure bringing a book to the movies in order not to waste the opportunity so thoughtfully provided by theatre staff in keeping the auditorium lights on to read a few more sentences, paragraphs, pages before the trailers start counts as at least a little compulsive, but I could be wrong.  And naturally All Your Bases Are Belonging To Us.    unless a review  carries an explicit by-line, it is perfectly safe, natural, and correct to assume (which makes it of course only the second good assumption in the history of the world…the other belongs to Our Lady St. Mary) that all posts have been created, edited, and occasionally grammatically abused by myself.

I am also a committed Christian believer raised in the Anglican tradition, holding dear the Orthodox and catholic doctrines, practices and devotions that have nurtured two millenia of believers, and have recently began expanding my understanding of the Jewish and Hebrew nature of the faith through studies with a Messianic Rabbi. As such, I come upon my reading, not with a “tabula rasa” which any self-respecting post-deconstructionist literary theorist or critic would tell you is impossible to begin with, but with something approaching a Christian understanding of the nature of the world and of right behaviour (my living up to said standards is irrespective of whether I accept that such standards exist). This means, among other things, that yes I will make judgements about characters perceived behaviors and particular when I deem they deviate from healthy, proper moral living. But it also means I will tell you why

The first couple dozen entries will consist largely in playing catch up with my existing work, pointing to and expanding upon reviews previously posted to Amazon, in the order in which they were posted on Amazon. If you want to follow along you can either read each review as we come to it, or read ahead by following the permalinks below of the books I have already reviewed.

1. “God’s Chosen Fast” http://www.amazon.com/review/R1R98GMUWVUS5R/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
2.  “The Complete Jewish Bible” http://www.amazon.com/review/R66CVERFI6YD8/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
3. “This Is My Beloved Son” http://www.amazon.com/review/RQD9GCNQSQT80/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
4.  “The Meaning of Creation” http://www.amazon.com/review/R20W108MQ5RWE7/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
5.  “Will Catholics Be Left Behind?” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2T3SRJBJZSPNX/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
6.  “The Essene Book of Everyday Virtue” http://www.amazon.com/review/RY9XXORXX8U9E/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
7.  “Africa and the Bible” http://www.amazon.com/review/R18ATGAOOAKH2R/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
8.  “With the Lightnings” http://www.amazon.com/review/R31RF3NY5N6HA7/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
9.  “Freehold” http://www.amazon.com/review/R19N5R1ILNPKAD/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
10. “Seeing Christ in the Tabernacle”  http://www.amazon.com/review/R1VHFOAF9LO7B8/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
11. “On Basilisk Station” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2D2NRHI1LFE6K/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
12. “Seeing Christ in the Old Testament” http://www.amazon.com/review/R2QW77K1H0ZO4P/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
13. “Me of Little Faith” http://www.amazon.com/review/R71BKI94QR89Y/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
14. “Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy” http://www.amazon.com/review/R3KBA1KB2WLUNS/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
15. “The Highest Tide” http://www.amazon.com/review/R12KYOKY89C1G/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
16. “Eye of the World” http://www.amazon.com/review/R32L1PFWZI7WVK/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
17. “Yeshua” http://www.amazon.com/review/R4FCZET43W3B3/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
18. “Mary Through the Centuries” http://www.amazon.com/review/R29FFXU775OJ6T/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

One more thing, I plan on being the primary blogger, but from time to time I hope to twist the arm of a friend or two to get them to provide guest reviews, to give my poor fingers a break.

So, until next time,  Read on my friends, and stay thirsty

edited for consistency on 17 October 2012